Acute sinusitis is an infection in your sinuses that typically lasts seven to 10 days. Symptoms include stuffy (congested) nose, facial pain and fatigue. Acute sinusitis often goes away with home care, but you may need medication for acute sinusitis that lasts longer than 10 days.
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Acute sinusitis symptoms include:
Acute sinusitis often happens when you’re getting over a cold. Your sinuses are a series of connected hollow spaces behind your cheekbones, forehead and nose. Air that comes in through your nose travels through your sinuses on its way to your lungs.
Your sinuses are lined with tissue. They also make mucus that keeps the inside of your nose moist. Mucus flowing out of your sinuses also takes care of debris like bacteria or viruses that air may carry into your nose.
Sinusitis happens when bacteria and viruses settle in your sinuses, making their tissues swell. At the same time, your sinuses make more mucus. Normally, mucus flowing away from your sinuses washes away intruders. But when your sinus tissues swell, that mucus becomes trapped.
Your sinuses become blocked and fill up with fluid, making your nose feel clogged up or stuffy. Your face may feel tender to the touch and you may develop a sinus headache.
Some people are more likely than others to get acute sinusitis. These include:
Rarely, infections that started acute sinusitis may spread into areas of your nervous system, like your brain, eyes or spinal cord.
Healthcare providers typically diagnose acute sinusitis by discussing your symptoms, including how long you’ve had them and if they’re getting worse. A provider will look at your ears, nose and throat for signs of swelling or drainage.
Acute sinusitis often goes away without prescription medication. It may take some time for your sinuses to clear but there many things you can do to ease sinus pressure:
A healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics if you have acute sinusitis from a bacterial infection. Often, providers will take a wait-and-see approach before prescribing antibiotics. In general, acute sinusitis symptoms that last 10 or more days may be signs of bacterial infection.
A little prevention goes a long way toward keeping your sinuses clear:
The good news is acute sinusitis often goes away within a week or so and without treatment. The not-so-good news is you may get frustrated waiting for acute sinusitis to run its course. Acute sinusitis isn’t life threatening, but it can affect your sleep or keep you from doing things you enjoy. If that’s your situation, talk to your healthcare provider about things you can do to help yourself.
You should contact your provider if:
You may want to ask the following questions:
Yes, it can. Often, acute sinusitis goes away within seven to 10 days.
If you have acute sinusitis from a cold or flu, please do try to stay home until you feel better. That way, you won’t run the risk of spreading cold and flu germs to others.
The main difference is how long your symptoms last. If you have acute sinusitis, your symptoms likely will go away within a week to 10 days, but some people have symptoms that last up to four weeks. Chronic sinusitis symptoms last 12 weeks or more.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Acute sinusitis (sinus infection) can clog your nose with mucus, make your face hurt and make you feel exhausted. Acute sinusitis isn’t a serious medical issue, but its symptoms can make you feel miserable. The good news is, there are many things you can do to feel better. If you think you have acute sinusitis, ask a healthcare provider to recommend over-the-counter medications and other self-care tips. And be sure to contact a provider if your symptoms last longer than you expect or get worse.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/12/2023.
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